This year marks the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of World War 1. On Sunday, I’ll be joining with thousands across the province at Remembrance Day ceremonies to mark this milestone and remember the sacrifices of so many service people. Remembrance Day prompted profound dialogue in my history classrooms centred around the question: “How Canada edged from colony to nation, what was the impact on soldiers and Canadian society, and, to bring it up to date, how do we find a balance in responsible use and care for those in our military with our role in the global community to offer humanitarian aid and peacekeeping?” The importance of this question is only growing larger as our knowledge about the world increases, and the lasting impact of conflict is better understood over time.
This is yet another example of the influence of educators: you challenge students to think critically about how past events and decisions have brought us to the present day and to challenge their beliefs in the systems and structures of our country and the world.
But our influence and responsibility is greater than just to our students: we are only able to engage in our work because of the relative peace and stability offered by democracy. Despite the flaws of this process, it is still the best system of group decision-making we have found to move us forward towards a society of greater equality. This applies equally to our political representation and your representation in your union.
This brings us to a historic opportunity in BC: to move from a first-past-the-post electoral system, which allows governments to gain complete control with less than majority support, to a system that truly reflects all votes cast. That’s why our federation has endorsed voting yes to proportional representation, and why I urge you to do the same.
There are two problems inherent in how most people experience representative democracy: the feeling that your vote doesn’t “count,” and that most people only experience our democracy through voting once every 4 years without consideration beyond that action. The combination of proportional representation and post-secondary education can tackle both these problems.
Our education systems can teach students to be active, critical and engaged citizens. Most students are taught to be followers, i.e. good workers and consumers, but good, passive followers aren’t exactly good at holding governments accountable. So the work you do as educators (as union activists and faculty and staff at your institutions) to promote the democratic process and critical thinking and learning democracy is vital to an informed and engaged population. Thank you for the work you do to challenge and inform all post-secondary learners.
By voting ourselves, and encouraging those around us to participate in our political process and civil society, we can be part of creating a freer and fairer world. By doing this we remember the sacrifices made in the past and act on the responsibilities of the present.
You should have received your ballot last week – please mail in your ballot today so it is received by the 4:30 pm November 30 deadline! If you haven’t received your ballot, or need to learn more about what is being proposed, visit Elections BC.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.